Sponsored by AdvancePierre® Foods
Breaded meats add flavor, texture and protein to salads, easily turning commonplace preliminary courses into intriguing entrée dishes.
Served on a bed of vegetables, grains or greens, breaded meats can enhance the appeal of operators’ menus and bring efficiencies to the kitchen as well. These offerings are appearing on the menus of operators in every segment, from quick-service eateries to casual-dining chains to fine-dining restaurants.
“Main course salads — specifically breaded and crispy fried meat protein salads — are one of the fastest growing categories on upscale menus,” says Dale Miller, president of Master Chef Consulting Group, Clifton Park, New York. “Gone are the days of ubiquitous pre-main course salads of iceberg or romaine lettuce with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, croutons and dressing.”
Customers are increasingly mixing-and-matching items from various parts of the menu, and rejecting the traditional concept of ordering appetizer, salad, soup, main course and dessert, he says. They are combining several courses, such as an appetizer and salad, and are often upgrading a salad to a main course by adding a protein.
“Chefs have realized that they can innovate salad options by incorporating unique ethnic flavor profiles and by combining those flavors with crispy, crunchy meat protein preparations,” says Miller.
These include such variations as Bavarian schnitzel, South American milanesa, Italian milanese or modiga style, Japanese katsu or tempura, or American-style buttermilk fried. Most proteins can be adapted to serve in any of those preparations, says Miller.
“Furthermore, guests are eager and excited to have these salad options,” he says.
Benefits for operators
Breaded salads can also offer the added benefit of improving cost margins by allowing operators to reduce the amount of protein served on a main course salad while charging a higher price, Miller explains.
His suggested recipes include a warm Tuscan kale and pork milanese salad, made with crispy pork scaloppini, cavolo nero kale, blistered grape tomatoes, white anchovy and fried capers. For an elegant and on-trend Asian dish, Miller suggests a Japanese chicken katsu salad, made with crispy almond-crusted chicken breast, chiffonade of cabbage and tatsoi, and a honey-ginger-sesame dressing.
Jesse Gideon, corporate chef and chief development officer at Atlanta-based Fresh to Order, says breaded proteins help the “fine food fast” concept achieve several objectives, including cross-utilization of product, ease of training, consistency in execution and cost control from better yields.
“Of course, breaded proteins also create tasty, fun textures and flavor-driven foods for our guests,” he says.
Fresh to Order allows customers to mix-and-match from a variety of grilled and breaded proteins to have with their salads. Among the offerings are tuna rolled in panko, sesame seeds, hand-crushed almonds, rosemary and other seasonings. The same breading is also used with chicken skewers that are served with other salads.
The chain also uses a fresh ale batter in which it hand dips chicken tenders to order for placement on salads, and features breaded calamari, cut in-house and breaded to order, that is tossed in an apricot ginger dressing for salads.
All of those proteins can also be used for paninis, wraps, small plates or entrée plates.
Several casual-dining chains offer breaded chicken tenders served on salad dishes. BJ’s, for example, menus a Honey-Crisp Chicken Salad with chicken tenders served on a bed of romaine and iceberg lettuces, with toasted almonds, cucumber, hard-boiled eggs, corn and tomatoes, and tossed with a honey mustard dressing. Red Robin offers a salad dish featuring “your favorite finger food” — breaded chicken tenders — tossed with hard-boiled eggs, hardwood-smoked bacon, tomatoes and cheddar cheese over mixed greens, served with garlic toast and choice of dressing.
Operators who use breaded meat products for sandwiches or other dishes can often easily convert these items into salads, which can bolster both the nutritional value of the dish and the satisfaction of diners seeking to limit their carbohydrate consumption.
Cross-utilization of product
AdvancePierre® Foods, a supplier of breaded meat products to the foodservice industry, offers a variety of suggestions for its products, many of which can be transformed readily into entrée salads.
These include such items as the Crispy Beef and Caprese Sandwich, made with the company's Natural Country Fried Steak, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes. arugula and basil; and the Loaded Fried Steak Torta, made with Western Style Cubed Country Fried Steak with avocado, pickled red onions, crumbled queso fresco and chili sauce.
AdvancePierre® Foods also suggests some Asian-influenced rice and noodle dishes that can easily be made into salads, including a Honey and Sesame Steak, made with The Legend Country Fried Steak, bean sprouts, chopped green onions, toasted sesame seeds and Thai chili pepper. It also recommends a Korean Bibimbap, which can be prepared with any breaded protein and blend of fresh and pickled vegetables on a bed of grains or rice.
But whatever culinary direction a restaurant chooses to take, breaded meats are sure to enhance a menu's appeal by adding desirable textures, on-trend ingredients and flavors, and the ability to customize.